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half the world away: Andrew's travel blog

Jul. 5th, 2014

11:25 pm - Brantford International Villages

Uniting people together through food, entertainment and culture is always a beautiful thing, and once again the Brantford International Villages has done just that. This is the Villages 41st year running, and there were a total of 15 different villages that you could attend.

In such a short time span, I was able to visit 5 of them: China, Latin America, Hungary, England and Italy.

The villages offer up a taste (literally and figuratively) of the nation that is hosting. From traditional dances like the Tango, to traditional music like the Chinese Erhu, to delicious Italian cannolis, and to the completely whacky, the Whistling Windsors (I still have no idea what to make of them).

Having been fortunate to travel to so many countries, the acts and food were like a walk down memory lane, but for those who have not been able to travel as much as I have, the Villages provide an excellent opportunity to learn, albeit briefly, about a culture and their traditions.

It would be great if more cities celebrated diversity like this 4-day Brantford tradition. If you are in the area next year, I highly suggest checking it out!

Jul. 2nd, 2014

11:44 pm - World Cup follow up

Square One shopping mall has a great area for fans to watch the games. Check it out!

Jun. 21st, 2014

11:37 pm - World Cup

The last time the World Cup was on, I was living in Korea, and cheering for my new favourite team, chanting "Dae-Hun Min-guk!" like I'd being doing it all my life. And now with the 2014 World Cup, I find myself living back in my hometown, and really enjoying being in such a diverse part of the world where you can literally find fans of every nation just by looking at their car.

With Canada being such a poor soccer team, it means that Canadians have no choice but to cheer for a country other than their own. How people choose their country could be heritage, a connection to the country because of a travel experience, their friends heritage or maybe just because you like the looks of their uniform. Regardless of how you picked your team to root for, it is amazing to see all of the nations flags being hung on cars, balconies and porches. (I've got my Korean flag hanging up!)

Yes, the world cup costs billions, and it is full of scandals, but it really is amazing to live in a diverse society where people can proudly cheer on Portugal or Germany or Nigeria and nobody holds it against them.

Canada is so often called a "mosaic" of cultures, and I think a quick drive on the highway, or looking at a busy parking lot, will show just how wonderful and beautiful our mosaic is.

Jun. 9th, 2014

11:28 pm - Revisiting my website

It has been a while...several years in fact since I've actively posted on my blog. I am going to start to redo my website and try to get more regular blog postings up throughout the summer.

Stay tuned!


Aug. 11th, 2010

01:48 pm - Iksan and Seonyudo

After departing from Chad, I made my way to the bustling hamlet of Iksan, where I met Hyesung, her sister (YoonJung), Julian, Craig and Lei. They were staying with an older man that was friends with YoonJung. It was such a great experience and I wish I had arrived earlier but I enjoyed the time with him while I could. We were out in the middle of the country, in his friends house, which was surrounded by rice paddies. REALLY cool. I felt like I was REALLY in Korea instead of in a Westernized Version of Korea.

The next morning we awoke early...like 4:30ish early. The roosters were out in full force, so a lot of us were very groggy, especially those who drank a lot the night before (thankfully I arrived late so I didn't get that effect!). After a quick breakfast, we were off on a boat to Seonyudo. I had been there once before last Chuseok with Alex if anybody can remember.

Me, Craig, YoonJung and Hyesung

We arrived around 10:00am to the island and were taken to our Minbak (hotel with no beds so you sleep on the floor). We had a quick bite to eat, but the clams in the soup were really really sandy and it kind of ruined the already overpriced meal. We spent most of the day lazing around the beach. The water was really warm, I was very surprised. The tide also came in very high and it was amazing how much the beach changed between high tide and low tide.

After the beach, we headed for a walk to one of the connecting islands. We stopped at bought some Hwae (raw rish) and some Soju and Beer for dinner. We had a great spot as we just sat there and watched the sunset in the west. Very enjoyable! We had ourselves a fun/small party that night and ended back at the beach.

While on the beach I snuck off to see what all these people were doing with flashlights in the sand. It turns out there were searching for strange sea creatures that they would later grill and eat. As the token white guy out on the beach with them, they welcomed me in typical Korean fashion and I was hard at work trying to find these things. We got about 4 or 5 of them and then I had had enough so I went back. It was such a great experience. I've never done anything like that so it was really awesome to watch and to participate.

We ended up in bed early...probably by about 11:00pm. The sun had done us in.

The following day we explored other parts of the island which was a lot of fun. The previous night Julian had caught a cricket, which was now his pet. And apparently (as of August 6th anyway) it was still alive! Impressive!

We eventually hopped onto the oversold boat (no seats for us...hate to think about the life jackets availability) and I made my way back to Busan.

I was really hoping to get out of Korea this year for my holidays, but staying in Korea ended up being a great time and a good closure to my time here.

Craig and I on the beach

Hyesung and I on the beach

Me, Craig, Julian and Lei



The Sisters Kim

Wow, I'm so pale.


01:00 pm - Jejudo - Loveland, Seoul - Korean War Museum

Our final night in Jejudo, we went to Baghdad Cafe (or was in Bangkok Cafe?). Either way, it wasn't Iraqi or Thai food. It was a great little Indian/Nepalese restaurant in Jeju City. We stuffed ourselves royally.

Afterwords, we took a cab to the one and only Loveland. A place that my parents and I didn't end up going to together, I wonder why?

It was a very amusing place, lots of pornographic statues and exhibits, but all in all, it was pretty tame, compared to say, the Amsterdam Sex Museum I went to a few years back. I think the pictures will describe it best.

The next day we headed up to Seoul, found ourselves a small apartment in Sincheon Area and then after a nice Vietnamese Dinner, we went out in Hongdae area. It was a lot of fun. The bar Chad wanted to go to ended up being closed. So we went to this small makoli (fermented rice drink) bar. At first things were pretty tame, but things really picked up when a Jenga game made an appearance. It was a really cool place that was deisgned for Korean about to go into the army, and those who just got back. I dont think they got many foreigners in. But we made friends with the regulars quickly.

Soldier walking through the hall of names memorial

The next day we went to Itaewan and then to the Korean War Museum. My parents told me to go there and it really is a must go place. Information overload, but really really amazing. Lots of great exhibits, movies, pictures. Completely bilingual too.

That ended our week trip, and we ended up taking different buses to our next stop. Chad to Busan, me to Iksan. Lots and lots of fun was had on the trip and I'm really glad we went!!



Loveland PicturesCollapse )

12:35 pm - Jejudo - Jungmun Resort, Waterfalls, Yakcheon Temple, Yeomiji Botanical Gardens

The next part of our trip took us to the Jungmun Resort area. Unfortunately the weather started raining while there, so we were not able to go to the beach as planned, but we did get to see some other cool sites.

We went to a three-teared waterfall, which compared to the other waterfalls on the island that I have previously seen, was impressive. But it was hot...SO hot. We were in a subtropical rain forest, and that is exactly what it felt like. The rain helped cool things down a bit.

We also went and checked out the REALLY impressive Yakcheon Temple. It was VERY commercial, and it was a very new temple (construction was still being done). But despite that, it was really a site to see. The main hall was 4 levels, 3 of them open to the public. It was suppose to have 30,000ish Buddha Statues, however it turned out that they were all basically leftovers from the souvenir stand, put into a glass case. That aside, the temple was well worth the visit.

The Yeomiji Botanical gardens were a bit of a let down. The open gardens outside were very very pathetic. Weeds growing everywhere, un-pruned bushes. It was laughable. However the indoor gardens were very beautiful. Lots of different zones, for example water plants, cactus room, fruit room etc.

The resort area, was well, just as I remembered it. Over the top, pricey and resort-like. That day I was informed that I passed my black belt test (another blog post will have more details). So Chad was incredibly generous and treated me to a wonderful dinner. We went out for drinks afterwords, which was highly entertaining as I don't think the bartenders had ever met a foreigner that could speak Korean (Chad can). The look in their eyes was priceless. Pure awe.


Waterfall - Level 2

Yakcheon Temple

Yakcheon Temple

Yakcheon Temple

Yakcheon Temple

Yakcheon Temple

Yeomiji Botanical Gardens

Yeomiji Botanical Gardens

Yeomiji Botanical Gardens

Yeomiji Botanical Gardens

12:16 pm - Jejudo - Seogwipo and ScubaDiving

One of the highlights of the trip was going Scuba Diving for the first time. Chad has his Dive Masters, or Open Waters or something, and he really wanted to go. I was a bit hesitant as I am not the strongest swimmer, but I loved it.

We went through Ralph, who runs BigBlue33 (www.bigblue33.co.kr). I did a Discovery Dive which basically meant I am just along for the ride.

On Little Munsom

We caught a boat from the harbour which took us out to a rocky island (Little Munsom) that had lots of Korean divers preparing. Ralph did a safety talk with me and told me what to expect, and then helped me gear up. The gear was really really heavy, but luckily I didn't have to wear it on land for much time at all.

We went in the water, did some test breathing and then started to descend. It was totally disorienting as I really seemed to have no control at all of my body. So Ralph REALLY helped me out with everything. In the meanwhile, Chad was around swimming near us, and probably laughing to himself and how awkward I think I was. We hit about 3 meteres down and then I got some ear issues. It took me a long time to "pressurize" but finally I did it and we were underway.

It was AMAZING how much life there is below the surface. I felt like I was living a BBC Planet Earth show...and Chad told me that the visibility wasn't even that great! But I loved it. We saw lots and lots of fish, a few schools, some coral, seaweed. All sorts of crazy things that I don't even know the names of.

The total dive was 26 minutes, and we went down to a depth of 12 meters which is about all a new person is allowed/should go down to. Chad and Ralph then did another dive after mine, where apparently it got very cold, but they saw lots of cool sea life.

If anybody ever has the chance to go diving, even just the discovery dive I did. DO IT! Really really amazing. I was so worried about the breathing, and things like that, but I had such an amazing time with no problems at all.

Unfortunately, no pictures underwater.

Chad taking the plunge

11:58 am - Jejudo - Seongsan Ilchulbong, Udo

With a typhoon canceling my English camp today, I figure its time to play catchup on my blog since I am stuck at school with nothing to do.

I had the last week of July off for my vacation, and Chad and I ventured out to Jeju Island. I had been there with my parents before when they visited.

View from our hotel room.

We flew their via Asiana Airlines (always a nice flight), and then took a bus to Seongsan Illchulbong (Sunrise Peak). We ended up getting a nice/cheap hotel room (W40,000) with a surprisingly nice few. That evening we walked around along the water and saw a few tiny hummingbirds. I've never seen birds that small. The ones in Canada are much bigger, but these were TINY. We also discovered some caves where the Japanese would ride suicide boats ready to launch out and attack enemies.

Throughout all of Jeju there are these really nasty bugs. They look like fusion between a cockroach and a centipede. Some grew to be really large too (bigger then my thumb).

The next day was raining in the morning, so we weren't able to get up and do the sunrise thing (it just wasn't worth it). We hopped on a boat to Udo where we rented a golf cart and drove around the island. It was a lot of fun. It was too hot to bike so it was a great way to hop around.

After Udo we hopped on a bus and went to Seogwipo, which is where we went Scuba Diving.

Sunrise Peak

Cliff's of Udo

Volcanic Rock

Black sand beach

10:13 am - Captain No Beard of the Hudson

A while ago (July 18th to be exact), I met up with some people to go to an artsy roof-top music concert (which funny enough I didn't end up seeing). But while in a coffee shop, waiting for the show to begin, out came some markers and some balloons and some of the artists got working.

My friend Jason, decided to do a portrait of me...as a pirate. So I present to you, Captain No Beard of the Hudson. Drinking Syrup from Tree.

Just look at those eyes...totally dedicated

Yarrr!! Me thinks it resembles me.

Me grog.

Me name.

Jul. 9th, 2010

01:01 pm - Lunch time in Korea

On Thursday I probably had the best lunch (maybe even meal) I've ever had in Korea...and it was from our school cafeteria! It was a great surprise. We had fried duck/veggies and onions wrapped in white kimchi, with udong Soup, rice, and delicious dried/caramelized cuttlefish/squid. SO good. Somehow I ended up ordering a kilogram of this duck for myself from the food distributor so I'll be eating duck for the rest of my time in Korea.

Today's lunch wasn't bad, but it was a tad heavy on fish. It was fried fish, with process fish cakes (basically fish hot-dog), fish soup, rice and kimchi. I was thinking that in the west it would be equivalent to Chicken Wings served with hot dogs, beef stew and noodles.

Our lunches this year are a huge upgrade from last semester. I can remember one day where we had JaJangMyeon (Black Bean Sauce with Rice), and the sauce was SO bad that everybody just ate plain rice for lunch...not too fun.

I'm not sure if I've ever blogged about lunch time in a Korean school. I decided its about time since it really can make/break your day. Unlike back home, lunch is provided to all students and teachers. Its a set menu that is incredibly nutritious (I've heard in America the lunches are not healthy at all). At both school's I've worked at, the non-homeroom teachers eat in our own lunch room. Which often ends up being a very meditative meal for me since I don't usually understand what is being said and I'm often not included in conversations (but after 2 years of this, I've come to terms with it).

You can usually help yourself and the food usually looks like the photo below.

Jul. 5th, 2010

04:16 pm - Bustling Buyeo

Well this trip has been a long time coming. Dan and Maggie came to Korea last September, and I had not been up to see them yet. So I finally made it up this past weekend and I had a great time!

Buyeo is a small (but not as small as I thought), town in the west/central part of Korea. By car, it probably wouldn't take that long to get there but there are no direct buses/trains from Busan so it was a bit of a journey. Not hard by any means, just long.

I was greeted by Dan and Maggie Saturday afternoon as I arrived at the Bus station and they were wonderful hosts the entire weekend. We walked around the city (literally walked the whole city) a few times and saw some of the sights along the way. Buyeo has a beautiful Lotus Pond Park. I think if I had come up a week or two later it would have been spectacular as the Lotus' were not yet in full bloom.

The outside of their apartment

They have a cute apartment. Its a bit run-down, but they seem to have managed well with it. That afternoon Dan and I caught up on lots of things which I really enjoyed, and we then went to check out the Buyeo National Museum...which should really be renamed "Buyeo Bowl Museum" as all they really had were hundreds of old bowls.

In the evening we met some of their friends for BBQ Galbi, went to a Makali (fermented rice drink) bar and then watched the soccer game.

Sunday we had a nice sleep in, and went to see Buyeo's famous suicide rock. This is the place where 3,000 (yes..three thousand) women jumped off this rock when King Bukje died...leaving them with no reason to live and nobody to serve. A bit of a gruesome place, but nowadays its really nice.

It was great seeing them and I hope they can make their way down to Busan before we all head home.

Inside the Stadium

Jun. 27th, 2010

10:35 am - Taekwondo Black Belt Test

Inside the Stadium

Well as some people might know, I started taking Taekwondo and Haedong Gumdo (sword fighting) last November. I never in a million years thought I'd be taking a martial arts class, let alone going 5 days a week for 7 months, and the idea of doing a black belt test seemed pretty absurd. But, I guess that is what traveling is all about, trying out new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone. And I'm SO happy I did as it has been one of the best things that has happened to me in Korea.

Anyways, June 27th was D-Day for me. It was my test for my blackbelt, first den. It was done in the Busan basketball stadium, and there were probably about 400 other people being tested. Being one of 3 white people in Taekwondo gear in the entire place, I felt like all eyes were on me. However, by the time my turn came around, most of the people had cleared out as adults go on at the end (children first).

I've done lots of presentations, ran a lot of races and played in school band back in the day, but I've never been quite so nervous as I was for this. Hundreds of hours all came down to a 3 minute long test.

I can't say much about the test as I was totally on auto-pilot. I don't really remember anything to be honest. Thankfully I got 2 videos of it, so you can watch it and enjoy and see what it is all about.

Video from the other competitors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt-2JPcy82s

My video (takes a loooong time to load): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFkrN-XYxZE

Master Jun, Master Song, Dave, Kendall and Hyesung all came out to support me and I really appreciate that they did!

I'm still waiting on my results, but I should know sometime in July.


Jun hoping his student doesn't bring the gym's name down.

While waiting, Dave and Kendall killed the boredom by taking random pictures

Hyesung snooping through my bag...

Jun. 26th, 2010

12:05 pm - Red Devils - World Cup Fever in Korea

Waiting for the Game to start at Haeundae

After spending time in Korea during World Cup time, I think I've reached the conclusion that if I'm ever going to travel during World Cup time, I need to go to a country that is in it. Korea went completely mad this year and it was awesome.

I ended up watching 3 of the 4 Korean games.

For the first game I went to Haeundae Beach as they had a giant TV screen showing the game. I've heard rumours that anywhere from 50-100,000 people were there watching. It was a sea of red shirts, red devil horns, facepaint and Korean flags. We were sitting really far back, and by the first 15 minutes, everybody in front of us was standing and blocking our view. We decided to move and build a sand mound, which put us about 3 or 4 inches higher then everybody else and we had a great view of the screen. Korea ended up beat Greece 2-0, and I think the entire country was hung over the next day.

The second game we ventured out to Asiad Stadium. Its a massive stadium that was built for the Asiad Games and the World Cup when it was here in 2002. It was free to go in, and they had the game televised on their two Jumbotrons. I would honestly say the stadium (maybe 65,000 capacity) was about 98% full. People were cheering SO loudly, I would even say that they could hear us in South Africa. Unfortunately Argentina won that game, and by the end of the game, the mood was very sad.

The next game was at 3:30am so I didn't bother getting up for it. I did however wake up because of the screams and shouts that were going on outside of my window when Korea scored. It sounded like North Korea had attacked. It was very eerie.

The final game was on the 26th. The day before my Taekwondo test, so I wasn't able to go out and do anything too crazy. I ended up watching it outside on one of the giant TV's near my house. It was a lot of fun, and a bit more quiet then the other venues.

I've never really appreciated what the World Cup is or its popularity until I was in Korea.

Canada, we may be the best at hockey, but we could learn a thing or two about soccer.

Red Devils

Rain, wind and heat...we look like we've seen better days

Spot the white guy.

Inside Asiad Stadium

Jun. 24th, 2010

04:26 pm - School Camilia Teacher's Party

Today marked Haesong's annual Camilia Teacher's Party. It was a day to celebrate the Camilia flowers that line the school yard and parking lot. Apparently our principal really likes them and so this is a kind of teacher-bonding afternoon.

It involved getting into teams, reading some pledges to the flowers and then playing games. The first game was the standard ring toss (a game in which I'm told is exclusively Korean), and then a flicking-of-bottle-caps game...or a dumbed down version of Crokinole. Our team came in 2nd place for the flicking-of-bottle-caps game.

After the games teachers brought out lots of food and drinks (soju, makali, Korean moonshine) and so we all say in the parking lot having a grand old time. I can see that going over too well back home!!

Principal flicking

My coteacher Amy

Camelia Flowers

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